A bike, some lights and motivation: what a stationary bike hooked up to an LED panel of lights can teach us about motivation!

Kurt Nelson, PhD and Ben Granlund

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As part of our exhibit booth at the World at Work 2016 Total Rewards Conference, we designed a method for giving away our promotional t-shirts that simultaneously acted as an experiment to help us understand what motivates people.

What we found out was intriguing and reinforces some key behavioral insights about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, recognizing accomplishments and having specific goals.

Our process involved a stationary bike that was hooked up to a bank of LED lights1 – the faster and longer you peddled, the more lights lit up, sounds basic enough right?

The six LED light panels set up on a vertical pole that lit up from the bottom to the top – once all six lights were lit up, all the lights flashed and the process was over.

We set our process up a little differently

To earn a very cool “Behavior Matters” t-shirt, all people needed to do was get on the bike and light up one of the lights.

We did not require that people light all six lights, and we did not assign a time length for peddling to earn a t-shirt.  All they had to do was light up one light – a relatively easy process.IMG_4473

Additionally, people could get their name written on our leader board if they were one of the five fastest people to light up all the lights.  This white board with hand written names on it was updated whenever someone earned one of the top five spots.

Our original concept was to have people read one of two sets of written rules – one positive and encouraging; the other bland and discouraging.  The intent was to see if the different messages impacted how people performed or felt about the activity.  We quickly realized that our original plans were not working – too many people wanted to ride the bike and the process ended up being us telling participants the rules instead of them reading them thus invalidating the initial study.

Luckily for us, this is where things got interesting!

Results

While the original communication experiment didn’t pan out, we were still able to gather very interesting findings.  Specifically we were intrigued by some of the insights we gained into extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, the power of leader boards, and the impact that specific goals have on performance.  First, let’s look at the overall results:

A total of 103 people rode the bike over the two days the exhibit hall was open (some participants rode multiple times).  Their performance is shown in table below.

Highest number of lights lit up 1 2 3 4 5 6
# of people achieving level 1 0 6 14 34 48
% of people achieving level 0.9% 0.0% 5.8% 13.6% 33.0% 46.6%
Average time to reach level
(in seconds)
15 0 68.7 46.1 32.5 20.6

The average ride time was 31.7 seconds – with the fastest time being 4.8 seconds and the longest time being 80 seconds.   There is some obvious differences based on physical fitness here as shown by the inverse time required to reach the different levels of lights (i.e., more time on average to reach 3 lights than 4 lights, etc.) which played out in how well people did.

Insights

Do you just want a shirt or are you looking for something more? 

We needed to have an incentive to get most people on the bike.  True, there were some who just wanted to get on the bike and see how many lights they could get, but the vast majority of the people got on the bike to earn the t-shirt.  In other words, they needed an extrinsic reward to participate.

But that’s not the interesting part…

The interesting part was that only one person stopped at the first light (1 out of 103, that’s less than 1%)!  Once they were on, the majority of participants moved past the threshold for earning a t-shirt and continued peddling to see what they could do.  This was not easy – we had the settings on the bike be rather hard. This meant that peddling for more than 15 seconds was difficult for most non-athletes.

We believe once they started the activity, they intrinsic motivation of the bike  kicked in.  The lights tracked their progress immediately and they could directly see how they were doing against the goal.  They wanted to see what they could accomplish.  They no longer worried about the t-shirt – but instead, focused on the event.

 In other words, they challenged themselves to see how many lights could they light up?

They had already committed to participate in order to acquire a t-shirt (the reward) – now they were pushing beyond what was required for the shirt because of the challenge that they were presented with.  If we think about the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation (for more info see here, here, here) we see that the Acquire component was instrumental in the motivation to initiate the event, but the ongoing motivation was propelled by the intrinsic drive to Challenge oneself and see how they could do.

Application:

The idea of using an extrinsic motivator to entice people to participate in programs or activities that they are not excited about and then allowing their natural Challenge drive take-over should not be undervalued.  Additionally, the more that a program uses a measure of goal progression, highlighting an individual’s progress, the more a participants Challenge drive is activated.  In other words, the design of your extrinsic incentive program can impact the intrinsic motivation that is activated. Finding cohesion between these extrinsic and intrinsic motivators can certainly help drive the right behaviors.

What’s up with the leader board?

We had a leader board where riders got their name featured if they were one of the five fastest people to light up all six lights.  They did not earn any additional extrinsic reward for being on the leader board – no fancy give-away, no grand prize, not even an extra t-shirt.

So did it make a difference? Continue reading “A bike, some lights and motivation: what a stationary bike hooked up to an LED panel of lights can teach us about motivation!”

Whose job is it to motivate?

I had a client send me an e-mail the other day – with this question – “Whose job is it to motivate?”  Here is the response that I sent her…

“Whose job is it to motivate?

This was an interesting question – one that, at first glance, seemed like it could be quickly answered if I did not spend too much time thinking about it.   So I spent some time thinking on it…and like the proverbial onion, it has many layers.

A quick response would be that it is the manager’s job to motivate.   They are in charge of their team of people and one of the responsibilities that they have is to make sure that their team is doing their job.  You get people to do their job by motivating them.  As a manager, you are likely to be in control of many of the motivational levers that organizations typically use, such as performance ratings, incentive components, special role assignments, recognition and a host of other tools that are designed to help motivate employees.  As a manager, you are often the closest link to the organization that employees have – as such, you are key to ensuring that they know the strategy and vision for the company.

So the job of motivating is the managers….

Except that when you peel away another layer, and ask the question, “can a manager really motivate his or her employees?”  This comes down to a theoretical question about our ability or lack of ability to really motivate another person?  Sure, you can motivate through fear and intimidation, but those are not typically the types of motivational forces that we think of when we think of a manager (outside of the threat of firing).   The question is revolves around the idea of having someone else motivate me or do I need to motivate myself.  You can put all of the rewards and accolades in front of me, but if I choose not to be motivated by that, then is there anything that you can do to motivate me?

Think about this in another way as a hypothetical question – what would motivate you to bring great physical harm to another person?  Would any amount of money sway you to do that?  Would any type of promotion or praise get you to do this?  Probably not.  You would have to have an intrinsic motivation to be able to do this (if even that would suffice for many people).

If we go down this path, then motivation is self-derived and is ultimately the job of the employee…

However, you peel away another layer and look at the role that our environment plays in our behavior and attitudes.  For instance, we know that people eat more when their plate is larger – even if they are not motivated to do so, or more ominously, motivated to not eat more (i.e., on a diet).   It has been shown that the work environment that we are in can have a significant impact on our attitudes and ultimately our performance.  We know that people’s behavior is changed when they are presented with an incentive or reward for doing something.   Studies, as well as our own experience, show that we will work longer, harder and more tenaciously if we know that there will be a luxurious reward as the result of our effort.  This points to the fact that a company’s leadership and the culture, environment, systems and processes that they develop are key to motivation.

Taking that line of thought, it is leadership’s job to motivate…

Except they do not often have an immediate presence or interaction with the employees.  That is relegated to the manager and how those systems, environments and culture are interpreted often relies on their actual practice of them…so we are back to the manager…and to the individual…

Ultimately, it comes down to a combination of all three.  That the job of motivating is everyone’s job.  

This is not a simple matter to say that “motivation” falls within someone’s job description…it is indeed a larger issue that has its roots in so much of what everyone in the company does every day.  We know that employees are complex individuals.  That each of us is driven by different needs and different goals.  The Four Drive Model helps us put those drives into categories, but those drives are still hugely complex in their nature, and that it takes a large amount of effort by the company, managers and individuals to really motivate us to our fullest potential.

Ok – hope I didn’t get too long winded or philosophical and that this was insightful to you…

Let me know if you have further questions.

Thanks.

Kurt Nelson, PhD.”

 

Ignite your motivation

This blog has Ignite your motivatoinbeen kind of quiet lately – partly on purpose and partly because life is busy.

The on-purpose part of being quiet was brought on by a post I read by Derek Sivers blog (http://sivers.org/boring) on whether it is better to focus, entertain or both?  The underlying message being that we sometimes put out content to just put out content, when instead we should be focusing and developing our ideas and build a “path to mastery.”  It is a great conundrum that we all face…as Derek says, “you’ve got a conflict: What’s best for you is to shut up, sit down, and focus. What’s best for them [audience]… is for you to be entertaining.”

That being said, I’ve been working on developing a few concepts that build off of what we’ve done in the past, but reflect a new approach for us.  This required me to shut up, sit down and focus.

As readers of this blog know, we have concentrated on improving employee motivation at an organizational level for years.  We put a lot of stock into understanding the research out there on this topic and not just repeat the same old ideas.  For instance, outside of the original researchers, we have probably done more work on the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation than anyone in the country (see here, here, here, here and here for just a sample of our thoughts on this).  We think that this motivational theory offers companies new ways of looking at their reward and recognition framework that is refreshing and helps drive motivation in exciting ways.  We used this and other research (mostly insights from behavioral economics and psychology) to help organizations set up reward and recognition systems that tap into these insights and improve employee motivation and engagement.  We’ve done exciting work with a number of large and small companies helping them do this.

What we hadn’t done is focus on what individuals could do to improve their own motivation.

We had not explored how individuals, such as yourself, keep on task and stay motivated to achieve your goals?  How can we leverage the new research that is out there to help us stay motivated everyday.

So we are shutting up, sitting down, and focusing on that.

And it is fascinating.

Recent work by researchers on habit formation, willpower, and individual change have shed light on a number concrete steps that we, as individuals can do, to help keep us motivated and on task.  We have taken the first strides in  building a process that melds together all this research into a few main concepts that can be framework for a personal motivation plan.  Our initial work has led us to develop a five step process, that we think will not only help people to ignite their own motivation, but also to build ways to maintain that motivation for the long run.  These five steps are:

1) Find your motivational flow

2) Recalibrate your habit triggers

3) Enable your daily environment

4) Socialize your motivational strategy 

5) Track your goal progress

Each step has both research and real actions behind it.

We are still working on this and are looking for collaborators to help refine the process and test our assumptions.  The idea is to create a workshop and support materials that can be piloted. In the near future, we will be testing the model and piloting the process with a few people.  If you want to be part of that group, let us know (leave a comment below or e-mail kurt@lanterngroup.com) and we will put you on the list and you can be one of the first to try it out.

As always your thoughts are appreciated.

How We Are Developing a Reward and Recognition System using the 4-Drive Model

I’m consulting with a 12 Billion dollar sales division of a Fortune 500 company regarding the future of their reward and recognition system.  Without going into much detail, they are trying to take a strategic approach to how they can improve the effectiveness of their reward programs.  As part of this process, we are using the 4-Drive Theory as a model to help guide how we build this system.

As one can imagine, the organization’s current reward and recognition programs rely heavily on the Drive to Acquire & Achieve.  By far, this was the predominant focus for over 90% of the components.  Additionally, our research showed that the current system has a number of legacy programs and other recognition items that are no longer strategically aligned with the organizational mission.

There are a number of ways that a reward system can be developed.  We aligned on developing a system that would tap into all four of the drives and focus on motivating actions on three specific sales behaviors.  With this in mind, we wanted to create a framework that would leverage various reward and recognition components.  That framework is shown below:

Reward and Recognition components

Within each of these four components could be a number of different programs that would be focused on driving one or more of the desired behaviors.  We also identified that while any of the components could activate any of the four motivational drives, that particular drives would be more readily activated by programs within specific components.  We’ve mapped this below:

R&R and the 4-Drives

So while both the incentive compensation and the non-cash components easily activated the drives to acquire and challenge, group trips and other recognition were more likely to tap into the drives to bond and defend.   This provided us with a framework to think about how we could leverage all four drives with various reward and recognition programs.

While this is a high level perspective, it does provide a company with way to think strategically about their reward and recognition system that aligns it with the 4-Drive Model.  We were able to map out specific programs within this framework that provided both a means for effectively driving behavior as well as leveraging all four drives.

To our knowledge, this framework has not been used previously within a large company.  We are very excited about how this is being applied and the impact that it will have.
Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts by leaving a comment below.   Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4-Drive Summary

4-Drives I found this summary of Lawrence and Nohria’s “Drive” and thought that it was a nice summation of the book.   Josh Kaufmann does a nice job of laying out the key insights to the theory and some good ideas on how to apply the theory into the real business world.  I really like the final comment by Kaufmann regarding adding a drive around “feel.”  It is an interesting concept that I’m going to explore in more detail.

Click through to link to read more…

http://personalmba.com/driven/

Let me know what you think – leave a comment!

Remember – you can always follow me on Twitter @WhatMotivates

Behavior is what matters

For all my passion and research into motivation I have to respectfully admit that motivation by itself is shit. By itself, motivation doesn’t do anything. The most motivated people in the world sometimes still just sit on their butts.

What is needed is behavior.

It doesn’t matter if motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic. It doesn’t matter if my motivation applies to the A Drive or the D Drive (or the B or C Drive for that matter). If I don’t start or stop doing something (i.e., behavior) then the amount of motivation I have is a moot point.

Motivation is important in that it leads to behaviors. Motivation is one of the key elements in achieving behavior change (starting or stopping something). But it is only one part. The guys from Vital Smarts, Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzer came out with a book called “Change Anything” not too long ago. It sheds light on this problem. While it mostly talks about individual change, but their insights can be applied to all motivation. They state that when we fail to change, “…when it comes to personal change, we think first of our own lack of motivation.” The problem with this belief is that there are a number of other factors that influence whether or not we actually change.

Change is hard. That is why motivation is important. It is the gas that powers the change engine. We need it to push through the difficult times and persist with our change effort. Again, Patterson et. al., talk about the other influences on whether or not we change – there are social factors and environmental factors. We can be motivated to loose weight all we want, but if we hang out with people who are always going out and eating big meals and just watching T.V. and if we have a packet of Oreos in the cupboard and no carrots in the fridge – it is much harder (and some might say – even impossible) to change.

When we are designing motivational programs for our employees, we need to understand that no matter how good our incentive program is or how well we activate the 4-Drives – our employees will be hard pressed to change if the social and environmental aspects are stacked up against them. If we want greater collaboration and teamwork, not only do we need to design the compensation plan so that it supports that, but we might have to look at how we configure our work space and what activities we allow while at work. If we want to get people out in front of customers more, we need to explore what are the routines that we have our employees do that inhibit this or what are the social/cultural pressures that might get in the way of this behavior.

So it boils down to understanding that while motivation is important, it cannot be the only thing that we focus on. We need to broaden our perspective to understand how motivation fits into the larger behavior picture.

And so while you might be motivated to agree or disagree with me – I’ll only know if you leave a comment (and thus, do a behavior). Click on “leave a comment” below.

Thanks.!

Four Drive Model Research Findings

Many of you have read the guest post by Kristen Swadley where she reviews her research on the 4-Drive Model.  Here is her Senior Honors Thesis presentation which goes into the details of her study and provides a wonderful overview of what her research uncovered.

Kristen Swadley – Senior Honors Thesis Presentation – Spring 2011 from MSSU Honors on Vimeo.

http://www.vimeo.com/23706400

 

Enjoy